Monday’s Musing: Does Technology Kill Creativity?

Monday, November 28, 2011

           So you have a bunch of rosemary in your fridge, do you a) use the internet to find a recipe, b) let it die, c) fall back on your old rosemary standby, or d) look in your pantry and throw something together.  I wish my answer was d, but more and more it’s a (or maybe b).  Why think of something myself when I can just let others do it for me?  Why risk culinary disaster when I can find customer rated reviews or top chef created recipes?  Why create when I can borrow?
            And so it begins…more and more I find myself borrowing recipes, borrowing lesson plans, and yes, borrowing ideas.  I don’t need to be creative.  I don’t need to problem solve.  I don’t need to think. All the answers to every question are at my fingertips.  And I’m lazy. I’m impatient. I lack confidence...Technology, ahh!
            I believe in problem solving, I believe in creativity, and I believe in critical thinking.  But I also believe that technology makes it easy to gloss over these skills.  My generation spent our formative years without the Internet, and we learned to use the library to find answers and when we couldn’t we were left to our own devices.
            What about my kids?  They’ll never know life without the Internet, without all the answers.  Will they learn to problem solve, create, and think critically?  Or will they passively click for the answers?  I live in a county where every child in sixth through twelfth grade has a laptop.  Rumor has it the elementary school kids are getting i-pads.  Cool, yes.  Smart, maybe not.  I read an article in the New York Times that claims that the technology experts in Silicon Valley send their kids to Waldorf schools because they see technology a distraction for learning and thinking.
            As a former teacher in a technology heavy school system and a current teacher at a technology university, I realize that technology can be a platform for creativity.  I realize that students can use technology to create art, music, video, and communication.  I realize that students who study technology use problem solving skills to fix and build platforms.  But is this how technology is being implemented or is it just technology for the sake of technology?  I’ve heard educators argue that the bells and whistles entertain students and thus make them more engaged in the learning process, but I haven’t found mastery any higher when I use bells and whistles and often it’s lower because the bells and whistles distract.  Maybe the Waldorf school has a point, maybe for younger children technology is a distraction.  Maybe for younger children it encourages educators to focus on drill and practice rather than creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking.  Maybe we should keep our children unplugged for as long as we can.

Confession:  I’m the mother who swore her kids wouldn’t watch t.v. until they were three.  My two year old is blissfully watching Diego even while I type this.  I don’t parent in a vacuum, I just think in one. 

Books, Baby, Books

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monkey see, monkey do.  A few weeks ago my four-year-old son fussed that I was going to book club and not bringing him along.  I countered with offering to put together a book club for him and his friends.  Next thing I knew nine kids were sitting on my playroom floor chatting about Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman.  The kids were aged 2 (my daughter, who was too young, but not about to be left out) to 6.   They were invited to come in a costume inspired by the book, and to my delight we had a ghost, a mummy, and a witch arrive.

Our afternoon started with a 15-minute discussion.  Here’s what we talked about: 
  1. Was this book real?  Did this really happen?  How do you know?  Are monsters real?
  2. What did you like about the book?
  3. How many of you have been to a pumpkin patch?  What was it like?  Have any of you planted a pumpkin?  What did you do?
  4. What can you do with a pumpkin?  What did they do in the book?  Have any of you ever eaten pumpkin pie?  Did you like it?
  5. If you could change something about the book what would you change?  Note:  The kids did not understand this question.
  6. What happened when one monster tried to pick the pumpkin? What was the solution?  How many of you have ever been on a team?  Tell me about it.
  7. What is a character?  Which character was your favorite?  Let’s hear everyone laugh like a witch.  Now let’s sound like ghosts.  Can anyone pretend to be a vampire?  How about a mummy?  How about a bat?

We followed that with a cute pumpkin craft. The crafting was a bit of disaster because I didn’t realize that if you wind the yarn too tightly around the folded cardboard, then you can’t feed in the pipe cleaner.   Oh well, lesson learned.  Still, the pumpkins were pretty cute and the kids seemed to dig them.

After craft time we played ring around the pumpkin (or stand at a line and try to throw a hula hoop over a pumpkin).  Each kid got to throw until they succeeded and won a chocolate lollipop for their efforts (which by the way are cute and super easy to make).

We finished book club with a snack—pumpkin pie (I cheated and bought a frozen one), pumpkin ice cream, and apple juice.  Many of the kids had never had pumpkin pie before and discovered they loved it.  The ice cream—not such a kid hit, though the parents enjoyed it.

I loved having a celebration of reading with my children and their friends.  I can’t wait until next time.  If you have suggestions for other books for our book club, send me a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t forget to check out my book review of Big Pumpkin on Amazon.